A group of women dressed in white T-shirts with the message that reads in Spanish; “Bienvenido,” or “Welcome,” wave to the pontiff upon his arrival at the Jose Marti International airport in Havana,Cuba, Tuesday March 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)
HAVANA (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI prayed for freedom and renewal “for the greater good of all Cubans” before the nation’s patron saint Tuesday, but the island’s communist leaders quickly rejected the Roman Catholic leader’s appeal for political change after five decades of one-party rule.
The exchange came hours ahead of a 55-minute closed-door meeting with President Raul Castro on the pontiff’s second day on the island. Brief video feeds showed Castro greeting Benedict at the Presidential Palace and then later seeing him off.
There was no visit to see Fidel Castro, though a Vatican spokesmon would not rule out the possibility of a meeting before the pope departs Wednesday afternoon.
Days after dismissing the Marxist ideology on which the Cuban system is based, Benedict continued to gently press themes highly sensitive to Cuban government in his prayer and short speech at the sanctuary of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre near the eastern city of Santiago.
“I have entrusted to the Mother of God the future of your country, advancing along the ways of renewal and hope, for the greater good of all Cubans,” the pope said. “I have also prayed to the Virgin for the needs of those who suffer, of those who are deprived of freedom, those who are separated from their loved ones or who are undergoing times of difficulty.”
It wasn’t long before a top official back in Havana responded.
“In Cuba, there will not be political reform,” said Marino Murillo, Cuba’s economic Login to read more